Mumbai: In a significant development for Mumbai's transportation system, the iconic non-air-conditioned (AC) double-decker buses operated by Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) are set to bid farewell after serving the city since 1937. The retirement plan follows a 15-year lifespan limitation imposed on these buses and will be carried out in two phases.
On September 15, the last non-AC double-decker passenger bus will roll off the streets, marking the end of an era. Subsequently, on October 5, the last open-top non-AC double-decker bus, known for its heritage tour service, will also cease operation.
Normal non-AC Double decker buses were introduced in 1937 and open deck double decker buses were introduced on 26 January 1997 in coordination with MTDC (Maharastra Tourism Development Corporation).
Efforts on to preserve legacy of iconic vehicles
The primary driver behind this decision is safety concerns associated with continuing to operate these aging buses. It's important to note that there are no immediate plans to reintroduce non-AC double-decker buses into the system.
"We are scrapping these buses due to the completion of their 15 years of service. As per a court order, we have to scrap a vehicle after 15 years of service," said an official of BEST.
Efforts are underway to preserve the legacy of these iconic vehicles, with BEST officials contemplating the possibility of placing one of these buses in their museum.
According to passengers, the retirement of these non-AC double-decker buses will impact certain routes, but BEST administration assures that steps are being taken to introduce air-conditioned double-decker electric buses. "An order for 900 electric double-decker buses has already been placed with a reputable manufacturer, and 16 air-conditioned double-decker electric buses are already in operation, with eight more expected to join the fleet shortly," said an official.
From 120 buses to 7
Over the years, the number of double-decker buses in the BEST fleet has dwindled, from around 120 before the pandemic to just seven today, including four in normal passenger service and three in the Mumbai Darshan service.
However, finding suitable replacements for these beloved icons has proven challenging. BEST is currently operating 16 air-conditioned e-double-decker buses manufactured by Switch Mobility but faces difficulties in sourcing enough AC double-decker electric buses to meet the demand. According to sources, BEST has urgently requested that the manufacturer expedite the delivery of these much-needed vehicles.
Currently, over three thousand buses are being operated by BEST in the city. On average, around 30 lakh passengers use these buses operated by BEST daily.